Lyric Itinerary: Mysticism and Metaxy—Some Basics

I take the word “itinerary” from Augustine as a version of “the lyric narrative used on this blog hitherto.

In writing about Geraldine Clarkson book @ninearchespress Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh I’ve settled on the Augustinian figure from his Exposition on Psalm 145 “ab extoribus ad interiora, ab inferioribus ad superiora,” as more adequate to the figure these poems make/reflect. This phrase has been garbled in the process of application over the centuries but applying it to the dialectics of the metaxological lyric should show its adequacy to this key issue.

Frost’s celebrated and oftreprinted essay “The Figure a Poem Makes” (1939) is very worth reading if only to see the glorious noise made by thinking that can’t get outside itself. The phrasing is all.

From outside to inside, from lower to higher: a chiasmus-type figure. Lyric investigations are beholden to this intricate but neat formula. Many self-professed artists plead purity when it comes to ‘formula,’ or little forms.

As to mysticism, I follow Desmond: “mysticism … has nothing to do with a leap into some other world but is merely the proper mindfulness of an otherness that is right now present to one,proper mindfulness of what is and what one is” (Philosophy and its Others, 237). I was pleased to hear Geraldine Clarkson approve this quote. Her lyric chops are phenomenal and even justify as praise the greatest sounding idealism —- transcendent immanence —- but in practice this polysyllabic mouthful makes mush out of idealism. See her poems in Monica’s Coat of Flesh.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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